Ottawa

Show to go on as drive-in theatres allowed to reopen

Drive-in movie theatre operators are rejoicing at the news that their outdoor theatres can reopen on Sunday as the Ontario government continues to incrementally loosen COVID-19 restrictions.

Moviegoers must respect physical distancing and mostly stay in their vehicles

The sign of the Port Elmsley Drive-In near Perth, Ont., which usually details what movies will be playing that day, reads "soon" on May 24. (Julie Ireton/CBC News)

Drive-in movie theatre operators are rejoicing at the news that their outdoor theatres can reopen Sunday as the Ontario government continues to incrementally loosen COVID-19 restrictions.

Kevin Marshall, owner of the Skylight Drive-In in Pembroke, Ont., said he'll project the first movies of the season on Friday — a double showing of DreamWorks' Trolls World Tour followed by Doolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr.

"It was a huge surprise, actually, I was not expecting anything to happen until July," said Marshall. "I was actually over the moon."

The operators of the Port Elmsley Drive-In, located between Perth, Ont., and Smiths Falls, Ont., reacted to the announcement in a post on their Facebook page.

"We've heard the news you have folks, and are happy to say we're 'legal,'" said the post. "We haven't received any word at the moment as to any capacity/distancing or sanitary protocols so we'll wait on that before announcing an opening date."

The post said the drive-in is still working out details for its ticket ordering process, but encouraged potential customers to purchase tickets online in advance.

Don't expect to buy popcorn

The province is requiring operators to put a number of protocols in place to ensure physical distancing and limit interactions between customers and staff to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture said only individuals from the same household can occupy the same vehicle, and all vehicles must be parked at least two metres apart. Moviegoers will also have to stay inside their vehicles except when purchasing tickets or using the washroom.

Sale of food and drink is prohibited.

'A bit of a hit'

Marshall said having to keep his snack bar closed will put a hole in his revenue.

"It's going to make things a little bit more of a challenge," said Marshall. "The fact that we won't be able to sell popcorn is going to be a bit of a hit, but at least we're going to have some income from the admission."

Operators are also required to step up cleaning and disinfecting of washrooms.

The province remains in "stage one" of its economic reopening plan, during which some workplaces, seasonal activities, and retail stores with outdoor entrances are allowed to reopen with physical distancing measures in place.

According to the province's recovery framework, each stage will last at least two to four weeks, at which point Ontario's chief medical officer of health will be able to tighten certain restrictions, extend the stage or advise that the province can move into the next phase.

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